Little information found in assault on seven Iwakuni Marines at Tenjin
Fukuoka city police say they have little information and no leads about the gang of Japanese males, armed with baseball bats and metal pipes, that attacked seven U.S. servicemembers from Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in the city’s Tenjin District.
At least three of the seven were injured during the 3:30 a.m. attack on April 4; a police official said two sought hospital treatment at Saiseikai Fukuoka General Hospital immediately afterwards. One servicemember was hospitalized and later released.
Tenjin is a sprawling shopping and entertainment district in the city of about 2.5 million on Kyushu Island’s west coast. Personnel from Iwakuni and Sasebo Naval Base often travel to Tenjin to enjoy nightlife and shopping.
“Although the investigation for the case is still open, we have very little information, especially with no complaint filed by the victims,” a spokesman for Fukuoka’s Chuo Police Station said Monday afternoon.
It could not immediately be ascertained Monday whether the servicemembers planned to speak with Fukuoka police or file a complaint.
An Iwakuni spokesman said the servicemembers attacked are Sgt. Dave Lopez, 24; Sgt. Darryle Hutchens, 22; Sgt. Alfonso Gonzales, 22; Sgt. Carlos Moreiradelacruz, 22; Lance Cpl. Jose Gonzalez Jr., 20, and Pfc. Anthony Kiefer, 21, all assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron; and Lance Cpl. Jorge Rios, 22, assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 171.
On April 7, the base commanders in Iwakuni and Sasebo issued orders declaring Tenjin off limits. The measure prohibits anyone covered by the U.S.-Japanese Status of Forces Agreement, including spouses and civilian base employees, from entering the area between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The restriction issued by Capt. Michael James, base commander in Sasebo, goes a step further to include “all SOFA-sponsored personnel on the Island of Kyushu,” even those visiting the area.
The Sasebo order is in effect for 30 days. The off-limits order from Col. David Darrah, Iwakuni’s base commander, applies until “further review after the incident investigation is complete,” a base spokesman said.
Monday afternoon, base spokesman Charles T. Howard characterized servicemembers’ reactions to the off-limits order as “overwhelmingly positive and supportive.” Many Sasebo Naval Base community members, he said, “enjoy traveling to Fukuoka, a wonderful and attractive city with much to offer.”
Spokesmen from both installations said there are no reports of people violating the orders.
The Navy Criminal Investigative Service is working with Fukuoka law-enforcement personnel to investigate the attack, base officials said.
Chuo police conducted interviews with the group of servicemembers immediately after the attack.
“Although our investigation is still open, it is difficult for us to send the case to the public prosecutor’s office without the victims’ statements and the request to press charges against their assailants,” the police spokesman said.
He added that often assault cases between foreigners and Japanese people are settled by jidan, a settlement outside the courts practiced to resolve minor incidents, when an injured party decides not to file a formal complaint.
The Chuo Police spokesman said that after reviewing recent criminal police reports in the Tenjin District, he could report “no other major violent incidents in the area.”
The spokesman said the Tenjin District is becoming increasingly popular among youths. “When many young people hang around late at night, alcohol- or women-related troubles do happen,” he said. “We understand that many minor cases are happening.”
Base officials would not speculate about what may have sparked the incident; local police said they had no idea what caused the rumble.
“However, we are receiving anonymous information,” the police spokesman said, “from people who saw the attack scene.”